Everything You Need in a Goat Pen
Before you purchase any pet animal, it’s important to know the necessary items and materials you will need to properly care for them. While goats are known as low-maintenance livestock animals, there are certain things that should be included in any goat pen or enclosure.
What do goats need in their pen? Here is a list of everything you should have in your goat pen:
- adequate fencing
- browsing areas
- secure shelter
- water tub
- climbing equipment
While everything on this list may not seem like a necessity, all of these items are necessary not only for your goat’s physical well-being but also their mental well-being. Before you go purchasing any piece of equipment, it’s important to know which is specifically best for goats. In this article, I’ll cover the items you’ll need in your goat pen and how you can set up your pen to be most beneficial to the goats.
You Need Adequate Fencing in Your Goat Pen
The fencing in your goat pen is one of the most important aspects of your goats’ living arrangements. As small livestock animals, goats often fall prey to many different types of predators. Domesticated dogs, wild dogs, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, and foxes are just a few of the predators that often prey on goats. The fencing you use to create your goat pen should be adequate enough to deter predators from reaching your goats.
Another reason you will need to make sure you have good fencing is that goats are notorious escape artists. They love to climb, jump, and even crawl, which often leads them to find all the weaknesses in fencing.
To keep your goats in and predators out, your fencing should be at least 4 ft tall. You should also consider burying your fence at least 1 ft into the ground to prevent predators from digging under or to keep goats from crawling through. Here are some fencing options to consider for your goats:
Woven Wire Fencing
Woven wire fencing is perhaps the most popular type of fencing for goats. This type of fencing is made from wire that has been woven together in a lattice pattern. The lattice pattern is great for keeping goats in and keeping predators out. It’s also easy to install, as you can attach this fencing to t-posts.
Pallet fencing is exactly what it sounds to be; with this fencing, you set up shipping pallets to create an enclosure by slipping the pallets over t-posts. Pallet boards are often close enough to keep anything from getting through; you can also find them for free or cheap if you look hard enough. While this fencing may not be feasible for a large goat enclosure, it will easily work for a smaller one.
Cattle panels are fencing materials where thick wire has been welded together in a lattice pattern. This type of fencing is very similar to woven wire fencing except for the fact that cattle panels come in sections and often have wider space in the lattice of the fence. While this is often not a problem, young kids may be able to escape through the fencing.
Your Goat Pen Will Need a Browsing Area
One thing your goat pen should provide for your goats is a browsing area. While most livestock animals prefer to graze on grasses and legumes, goats like to browse and eat leaves, bark, twigs, shrubs, and weeds. You can even show bush clippings, raked leaves, and other browse food into their pen for them to eat!
A Goat Pen Can Be in the Woods
The great news about owning goats is that you don’t need a big expansive pasture to do so. Since goats prefer browse over grass, goats can often prosper in a wooded setting. Many people often use goats to “clean up” woods that are otherwise overgrown with underbrush and shrubs.
If you have limited space on your property and in your pastures, putting your goat pen in the woods can help you better utilize your land. Some things to note when it comes to keeping goats in woods is that they may be more susceptible to predators, as predators tend to stay in the forest where they can stay hidden. Goats can also kill trees by eating away at the bark, trunk, and roots, so if you want to keep the trees alive, it’s best to wrap woven wire fencing around the trunks.
To learn more about keeping goats in the woods, check out my article “Can Goats Live in the Woods?”
You Will Have to Provide Extra Food if Your Pen Doesn’t Offer Other Eating Options
While your goat pen doesn’t have to provide a browse area, your goats will be much happier in a larger area where they can forage throughout the day, as they were designed to do. If you do have a smaller pen or if your goats have eaten away all the browsing available, you will need to provide extra food to supplement your goats’ diets.
The good news is that goats will often eat anything, so providing them with extra food isn’t that hard. My neighbors sustain their goats largely by feeding them the clippings of yard work, leaves, twigs, shrubbery, and some hay. You can also feed goats grain, but that should not be the majority of their diet. Overall, buying hay, grain, and minerals for a herd of 4 goats comes in around $25 a month, which is relatively inexpensive.
You Should Provide a Secure Shelter in Your Goat Pen
Since goats are considered low-maintenance livestock, people sometimes forget that they need a shelter; however, a secure and dry shelter is very important to the well-being and comfort of your goats.
A Shelter Will Keep Your Goats Dry and Comfortable
The primary reason for providing your goats with shelter is to give them an escape from the elements. While goats are hardy creatures, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be affected by extreme weather. Your shelter should first and foremost provide a dry environment for your goats, even if it is wet outside. Goats can do well in cold-temperatures, but when you mix the cold with wet conditions, they can develop hypothermia. Goats are smart and will often go in a shelter when conditions get too unbearable.
A shelter can also provide a place for your goats to escape the heat and the cold. During the winter, goats may go in the shelter and huddle together to avoid the wind and frigid temperatures. During the summer, the goats often rest in the shelter to escape the blazing rays of the sun.
Best Types of Goat Shelters
You can find goat shelters at your local farm store or create one as a DIY project. Some of the best types of shelters for goats include run-in sheds, calf hutches, and large dog houses. Depending on the number of goats you have should play a role in determining what kind of shelter you use.
Goats like to stay together, so if you have a large goatherd, consider a larger run-in shed. If you have a smaller herd, a calf hutch will work well. No matter what type of shelter you use, just make sure that it is dry and well-ventilated so that your goats can be comfortable.
Your Goats Will Need a Water Source in Their Pen
Water is a vital part of survival for any animal; for this reason, it’s important to provide your goats will an easily accessible source of clean water.
How Much Water Do Goats Need?
The amount of water a goat drinks a day can vary depending on the amount of water in the grass and browse that the goat eats; regardless, you should provide your goat with at least 2 – 3 gallons (7.6 – 11.4 L) of water per day. Keep in mind that this is per goat, so if you have 4 goats in a pen, you will need to provide anywhere from 8 – 12 gallons (30 – 45 L) of water per day.
Why Water is So Important to a Goat’s Digestion
While water is important to just about every living thing, it is vitally important to the digestion in livestock. Goats are ruminants, meaning that they have a stomach made up of four chambers. Throughout the digestion process, food will pass through these four chambers.
Water is needed to move the food from one stomach chamber to another, through the gastro-intestinal tract. If a goat isn’t getting proper amounts of water, this can lead to impaction of food in the stomach and gas build-up. This is known as colic, and it can be fatal to goats. Dehydration is one of the major causes of colic in livestock animals.
Best Ways to Provide Your Goats With Water
The best way to provide water for your goats is by using a water tub that is close to the ground. Many people use large rubber feed pans or buckets to act as a water tub for their goats. The most important aspect is that your goats can easily lower their heads and drink from the water source.
Another thing to consider is how you’re going to keep the water unfrozen in the winter. Many colic cases happen in the winter when water has frozen over and animals can’t get the liquids they need. If you have an electricity source, you can use water heaters in the water tub. If you don’t, you can place a tire around the water tub to keep it from freezing. You can also put water bottles filled with salt water in the tub to circulate the water. Whatever you do, it will be important to check the water every morning and evening to break away any ice and make sure your goats still have a water source.
Provide Your Goats With Feeders in Their Pen
There will be times that you need to feed your goats hay, grain, and minerals. While goats often don’t care if you put food directly on the ground, this can lead to a messy enclosure and food getting covered in feces and urine. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have feeders in your goat pen. Goat feeders often provide a place you can put hay and grain in for your goats to eat.
How Much Food Do Goats Need?
Goats need to eat 3 – 4% of their bodyweight each day, preferably through browse or hay. Ideally, goats eat in intervals throughout the day and don’t go long periods of time without eating. The digestive system in goats was designed to be working throughout the day, not just one time in the evening and one time in the morning.
How Much Grain Should I Feed My Goats?
While grain can be used to help sustain weight in your goats and get them vital nutrients and sugars for development, gestation, or lactating, grain should not make up the majority of your goat’s diet. The reason for this is that goats weren’t designed to digest grain in large quantities. They also weren’t designed to intake food that is so high in sugar.
All that said, the amount of grain you feed your goats will vary depending on the situation. Kids should not be fed more than 1/2 cup a day, as their rumens are still learning to digest the grain. Most healthy adult goats only need about 1 cup of grain a day.
Pregnant and lactating goats can be fed more grain, as they are burning more energy. In this case, do not feed your goat more than 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) of grain per day.
How Much Hay Should I Feed My Goats?
The amount of hay you feed your goats should be determined by the amount of forage and browse the goats have access to. If your goats have enough grass, shrubbery, and weeds to eat, then they won’t need much hay. However, hay can be used as complete forage for your goats if there aren’t many browsing options for them. This is most common in the winter months when all the vegetation has died off.
Hay is easy to digest for goats and it provides forage they can eat throughout the entire day. If your goats aren’t relying on any other source of forage, you can feed each goat 2 – 4 lbs (0.9 – 1.8 kg) of hay each day.
Put Climbing Equipment in Your Goat Pen
Goats love to play and climb! This is one of the reasons they are so fun and cute! Adding climbing equipment to your goat pen can make your goats’ lives more enjoyable and make for great entertainment.
Best Climbing Equipment to Put in Your Goat Pen
This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve actually seen entire playhouses with swings and slides put out in a goat pen… and the goats loved it! They would take turns trying to run up the slide and jump onto the swings. Luckily, you don’t have to go this fancy when providing your goats with climbing equipment.
Goats love to climb on top of rocks and logs. They’re even known to climb up into trees. Simply placing some big rocks or tree stumps out in your goat pen can bring your goats much joy. Just be careful, because this may enable them to jump out of their pen! Be sure to keep all climbing equipment away from the fences so that they goats aren’t tempted to jump over.
Give Your Goats Toys in Their Pen
Many people fall in love with goats because they love to play. They are often compared to dogs when it comes to their excitement and expression when a new game or toy is provided. Toys can keep your goats entertained throughout the day and give you something to laugh out. If you have to keep a goat in confinement for some reason, I highly recommend getting a toy for your goat, as this will give them something to do while they are isolated from the herd.
Many goats love jolly balls, miniature trampolines, sports balls, and water jugs. I’ve seen goats jump and chase around balls, almost as if they were playing fetch. I’ve also seen them jump up and down on a trampoline, which was hilarious! Once again, you will definitely find yourself entertained if your own goats, and especially if you give them something to do!
Do you know that I have many articles on how to care for goats? If you’re looking for more reading material, check out the articles below: